Prevalence and factors associated with autism spectrum disorder symptoms among children attending the pediatric neurology clinic of Mulago hospital.
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Introduction: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by pervasive abnormalities in reciprocal social interactions, patterns of communication and repetitive, stereotyped, restrictive activities. It is estimated that worldwide 1 in 160 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although the exact cause of ASD is still not known, the main findings emphasize the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of ASD. Maternal age, paternal age, birth complications, epilepsy and comorbid behavioural and psychological problems have been shown to be associated with ASD. However, most of the work on ASD has been done in western countries leaving large knowledge gaps on ASD in Africa. Objective: To determine the prevalence and factors associated with ASD symptoms among children attending paediatric neurology clinic of Mulago hospital. Methods: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study on children aged 2 to 9 years attending the paediatric neurology clinic of Mulago Hospital who were recruited using the consecutive sampling technique. After obtaining consent and assent, a socio-demographic questionnaire was administered by the student investigator or research assistant. Additional questions were asked to assess the pre-natal, birth and post-natal characteristics. Psychiatric comorbidity was assessed using screening questions from the Mini International Psychiatric Interview for Children and Adolescents (MINI-KID). The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) was administered to assess for ASD symptoms in the children. Data Entry was done with EPIDATA 3.0 and Statistical analysis with STATA version 14. Frequencies and means were used to describe the sample characteristics. Chi square test and Fisher‟s exact test were used at bivariate analysis while multiple logistic regression were used at multivariate analysis to determine which factors were associated with screening positive for ASD. Results: A total of 318 participants were recruited, their mean age was 5 years and 58.2% were male. The prevalence of significant ASD symptoms was found to be 45%. Females were less likely to screen positive for ASD OR 0.48(0.24-0.98). Children that were able to speak were also found to be less likely to screen positive for ASD 0R 0.09(0.04-0.2) while those that had history of delayed milestones were more likely to screen positive for ASD OR 3.30(1.59-6.84). Conclusion: The prevalence of ASD symptoms is high in children with neurological disorders. ASD should be routinely screened for especially in children with delayed developmental milestones.